We don't know who President George W. Bush will nominate to succeed Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But this is certain: Democrats will smear the nominee.
It will not matter how personally honorable, how intellectually honest, how legally profound this nominee is. Indeed, the greater the individual, the greater the personal attacks will be.
There are three reasons.
First, Democrats believe that conservatives by definition are bad people. As Howard Dean, the head of the Democratic National Committee recently said, "in contradistinction" to Republicans, Democrats care if children go to bed hungry at night. In most Democrats' minds, conservatives/Republicans do not care if children go to bed hungry, and they are racist, intolerant, regard women as inferior, are stingy and mean spirited, and prefer war to peace.
The reason they see conservatives this way is that most people on the Left are certain that they mean well; therefore their opponents do not mean well. Moreover, liberals tend to assess policy positions on that basis -- are the motives good? -- rather than on the basis of what actually does good.
For example, liberals advocate bilingual education for immigrant children despite the fact that bilingual education hurts immigrant children. It slows learning the language of the adopted country and integrating into it, and thereby hurts their chances for success. Nevertheless liberal educators and politicians prefer bilingual education -- out of compassion for immigrant children (and antipathy to American assimilation). Therefore liberals believe that since compassion leads them to favor bilingual education, only a lack of compassion can explain conservative preference for English immersion.
Likewise in liberal eyes, the Republican/conservative preference for lowering taxes can only emanate from selfishness and apathy toward the poor. And conservative support for the war in Iraq cannot emanate from love of liberty and a moral desire to destroy Islamic totalitarians, but rather from love of oil, commitment to American imperialism and macho adoration of military might.
On issue after issue, Democrats perceive Republicans as not merely wrong, but bad. And when fighting the bad, almost any weapon may be used.
The tactic of choice has been the smearing of conservatives. There are few major conservative political figures whose names have not been sullied by liberals. It began with Judge Robert Bork, reached its nadir with Clarence Thomas and continues to this day.
Republicans have come nowhere near making the number of personal attacks on the private lives of public individuals. One reason, ironically, is that people expect more decent personal conduct from conservatives.
Nor is it intellectually honest to counter that Republicans did the same thing to President Clinton. Had President Clinton said, "I am sorry for my lapse in judgment. I am sorry to my family and to my country," Republicans would have dropped the Monica Lewinsky affair. It was his lying -- to the country and under oath -- that kept the issue alive.
A second reason Democrats and others on the Left use smear as a political weapon is to avoid challenging ideas and intellectual argument. Liberals have been able to do so in all the areas they dominate -- academia, news media and unions. Instead, they have learned to rely on personal attacks, such as routinely labeling opponents "racist," "sexist," "homophobic" and "intolerant."
Third, having been unable to persuade the American public to adopt most of its policies, the Left has increasingly relied on the courts to do what the political process will not do. As Democrat William A. Galston, former aide to President Bill Clinton, admitted this past weekend, "Beginning in the 1950s, the Democratic Party convinced itself that, especially on social issues, the principal vehicle of advance would be the court."
Therefore, nearly all the Left's eggs are in the judicial basket. It knows: no liberal courts, no liberal agenda. When combined with moral contempt for conservatives and an inability to persuade the public, the Left must retain the Supreme Court at any price. And that price is the good name of good people. As you will see.